The coastal dune systems are incredibly harsh areas for plants. The combination of salt spray, shifting sand and the lack of water retention by the sand defeats most plants that attempt to grow there. Sea oats, Uniola paniculata, is a colonizing species of the dunes. The root system of the sea oats help stabilize the dunes, which allows other plants to get a start. Without the stabilizing influence of the sea oats, the dune are subject to increased erosion, which can result in the loss of the entire dune system. Sea oats are protected, which one of the reasons that boardwalks are constructed over the dunes to allow access to the beach without harm to the sea oats. The building thunderhead provides a dramatic backdrop for the dune and the sea oats.